Women of #WhiteWednesdays in Iran are still in prison. By removing their compulsory hijab, they had produced this awe-inspiring video on women’s day on Tehran’s metro. They were calling their sisters to band together, regardless of whether they wear hijab or not.
In spite of being sentenced to long prison sentences, they don’t regret their heroic act. Don’t forget their names and help us raise awareness for their release Yasaman Aryani Monireh Arab-shahi Mojgan Keshavarz Saba Kord-Afshari Raheleh Ahmadi They’re Iran’s Rosa Parks And here is a message from these two brave mother and daughter from prison for #InternationalWomensDay
The bravery of Iranian women in the face of misogynist clerics who impose compulsory hijab on them is simply awe-inspiring. Over the course of our campaign, we have received countless videos from many Iranian women overtly walking unveiled in front of clerics in Iran. Despite being verbally attacked and humiliated by these clerics, these women continued their combat and filmed their experience. Such humiliation has been ongoing for more than 40 years now. What we have done is to relay these women’s heroic fight to the entire world so that the world becomes aware of fact that hijab is not merely a piece of cloth. In the hands of dictators, it can deprive women of their agency. Here is a selection of 13 women who fight the verbal abuse of 13 clerics and walk unveiled despite the threats.
Often times, the issue of compulsory hijab is cast as being a domestic matter. Some in the West, especially certain well-intentioned politicians don the compulsory hijab without asking any questions, thinking that they’re respecting our culture.
When female politicians from the West travel to Iran and wear the compulsory hijab unquestioningly, they are contributing to our repression. They often say they wear compulsory hijab because it’s supposed to be our “culture”. WRONG! Compulsion has never been our culture. There are millions of Iranian women who don’t want to wear hijab. This is the culture of a repressive regime, not ours. Female Western politicians should not normalise this.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has used Western politicians’ submission to compulsory hijab in its dealings with Iranian women to tell them, “look! Even Western women wear hijab when they visit Iran. What are you complaining about?
Many Iranian women feel left out by the West when it comes to their struggles against repression. While Western politicians prioritise negotiating with our oppressors, our cries for freedom fall on deaf ears.
Women’s rights campaigner Masih Alinejad called on the international community during her address to the Oslo Freedom Forum, to ban the Islamic Republic from international sports events in response to the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari. Alinejad also called on Twitter and Facebook to suspend accounts of Islamic Republic leaders until the regime allowed access to social media services.
As in every year, various human rights activists from different corners of the world gathered for Oslo Freedom House’s annual conference this year in September to defend the cause of freedom of speech and human rights. Speaking at this highly prestigious event, Masih Alinejad brought forth the case of various voiceless Iranian protesters arrested during the #IranProtests. She talked about the case of Navid Afkari, a champion wrestler, who was arrested during 2017’s protests in Shiraz. After being exposed to egregious torture in prison, Navid was swiftly executed recently despite the international outcry that his execution has engendered.
Navid’s execution sent shockwaves across various segments of Iranian society. Iranians of various walks had coalesced around the goal of saving his life as the hashtag #NavidAfkari went viral. This hasty execution of this wrestler gave rise to calls to ban the Islamic Republic of Iran from worldwide sports championships. Masih Alinejad reiterated this call throughout her speech.
Along with Navid, there are countless prisoners who are in death row in Iran. Unfortunately, highlighted by Masih Alinejad, their cases receive scant attention in the international media, especially on social media. What is mind-boggling is that despite the fact that Facebook and Twitter remain forbidden in Iran, Iran’s rulers use such media to spread their own propaganda worldwide. Hence, it behooves on the administrators of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter not to become platform for these human rights violators. “History will judge you”, said Masih Alinejad in reference to social media platforms and she called on them not to allow their platform to become a media for spreading authoritarian governments’ propaganda.
Opened by Marianne Hagen, the State Secretary of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this year’s conference featured other human rights activists representing different causes worldwide, ranging from the cause of Uyghur Turks in China to pro-democracy activism in Sudan, Opposition to Putin’s rule in Russia, LGBTQ and environmental rights in Cuba along with the famous opposition leader of Belarus, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya
Their bravery is awe-inspiring. Despite the risk of getting arrested, these women openly opposed the compulsory hijab in Iran. Their names Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arab-Shahi and Mojgan Keshavarz.
Imagine being jailed for defending the most basic freedom: Freedom to choose what to wear! Elsewhere in the world, these women would have been celebrated for their commitment to women’s rights and feminism.
But in Iran, authorities have sentenced them to years of prison and they are being treated like criminals. As the world is presently grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, let’s not forget about these brave souls who are languishing in prison. Because freedom is not free.The international community should not turn a blind eye to the situation of these women. When female politicians visit Iran and submit to the compulsory hijab (under the pretext that it is the “Iranian culture”), they are also justifying the authorities’ repression of Iranian women. After all, compulsion has never been part of Iranian culture. Rather, it is the hallmark of a repressive and authoritarian system called the Islamic Republic, which has killed tens of thousands of Iranians fighting for freedom.